OLIVER NORVELL HARDY Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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Oliver Norvell  Hardywas born in Harlem, Georgia, on January 18, 1892. Oliver was 48 in 1890 when he married Emily and he was not in the best of health. He died less than a year after Norvell Hardy was born. Emily was left with few prospects and five children to raise. It was a difficult time but Emily was resilient and hard working. She worked as a hotel manager in Madison and later in Milledgeville, Georgia.


Raising young Norvell Hardy must have been a challenge. He was not overly interested in gaining an education. Norvell acquired an interest in music and theater from tenants of his mother’s hotels. He ran away from home to follow a theatrical group. He was sent to a boarding school near Atlanta but he ran away from that, too. Since he had a good singing voice Emily sent him to Atlanta to study music and voice with a prominent musician but Norvell skipped lessons to sing in a vaudeville house. He was sent to a military college but again he ran away. He was enrolled at Young Harris College but shortly begged Emily to be allowed to return home. He toyed with the idea of studying law but finally decided that he had to follow his dream of a singing career.


In 1910 a movie theater was opened in Milledgeville and 18-year old Norvell became its projectionist, ticket taker, janitor and part-time manager. He became obsessed with the fledgling motion picture industry. He was convinced he could do as well as or better than what he saw on the screen. When a friend encouraged Norvell to move to Jacksonville where movies were being made he did so and quickly found work as a cabaret and vaudeville singer. There he met, courted and married Madelyn Saloshin, a pianist in her in her 30s. Since his singing engagements were in the evening, Norvell spent his days at the Lubin Studios, watching and learning. A director enlisted Norvell in his first movie, Outwitting Dad (1914). Norvell chose to be billed as O. N. Hardy, taking his father’s first name as his own. Thereafter he referred to himself as Oliver Norvell Hardy.


But it was the Italian proprietor of a nearby barber shop who gave Ollie the name by which he was known to friends for the rest of his life. After shaving Ollie, the barber would apply talc to his cheeks and say, “nice-a-bab-y.” This was eventually shortened to Babe. In many of the late films at Lubin he was billed as “Babe” Hardy.